A new Bill, which bans the use of undeclared bots during elections ("the Bill"), has been signed by the Governor of California.

A "bot" is defined under the Bill as an automated online account in which all actions or posts, or at least most of them, are not carried out by a person. The Bill makes it illegal to use a bot to communicate or interact online with another person in California with the intent to mislead that person with respect to its artificial identity in order to: (1) incentivise a purchase or sale of goods or services in a commercial transaction; or (2) influence a vote in an election.

A person using a bot is excluded from the Bill, if that person discloses that it is a bot. The disclosure must be clear, conspicuous, and reasonably designed to inform persons with whom the bot communicates or interacts.

The new Bill is set to take effect on 1 July 2019, and does not impose a duty on service providers of online platforms that have 10,000,000 or more unique, monthly, United States visitors or users for a majority of months during the preceding period of 12 months.

The new Bill follows Twitter's reports regarding Russian-controlled bots that were very active during the 2016 United States Presidential election. Twitter, on its part, is taking steps to protect election integrity ahead of the Midterm Elections, which will take place this November. The platform has announced an update in its work regarding Twitter's "election integrity" project, which includes several major changes to its site rules and policies.

The main changes to the Twitter Rules include the following:

  • Fake accounts: in order to overcome manipulation tactics through an evolving platform, Twitter has expanded the rules concerning fake accounts. Twitter may now remove fake accounts which engage in a variety of emergent, malicious behaviour;
  • Attributed activity: Twitter has expanded the company's enforcement to include accounts that deliberately mimic or are intended to replace accounts which have already been suspended for violating Twitter's rules; and
  • Distribution of hacked materials: Twitter has expanded its rule such that its review teams will now ban accounts that claim responsibility for a hack, make hacking threats, or issue incentives to hack specific people and accounts.

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